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The Wellington Regiment (NZEF) 1914 - 1919

Chapter I. — The Organisation of the Regiment

page 1

Chapter I.
The Organisation of the Regiment.

Departure from New Zealand.

Looking back to the stirring days at the beginning of August, 1914, it is difficult to regain a clear recollection of the strenuous weeks attending the birth of the Regiment. From the moment it became known that New Zealand would send a force to assist the Mother Country in the great struggle into which she had thrown herself on that fateful 4th August, 1914, the Defence Offices throughout the country were besieged with applicants for enlistment. The Dominion Military Headquarters lost no time in making a definite announcement as to the approximate force that it was intended to raise at once and as to the method in which it would be recruited. Major-General Sir A. J. Godley, the General Officer Commanding, showed his great confidence in the efficiency and organisation of the Territorial Force when he recommended to the New Zealand Government that the Expeditionary Force should be recruited from and through the existing Territorial units, and that the men on the strength of those units should be given preference, if willing to serve in the Expeditionary Force. So far as concerned the Infantry of the Expeditionary Force, this arrangement meant that each of the four Military Districts in the Dominion—Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago—was to supply one battalion of Infantry. Each battalion was comprised of four companies recruited from the four battalions of its Territorial Infantry Brigade. As a battalion of the Expeditionary Force, according to existing War Establishments, would consist of four double companies each 227 strong, each Territorial battalion was given the task of recruiting one company. The company was page 2named after and wore the badges of the Territorial battalion from which it sprang. As, in reality, it represented the Wellington Infantry Brigade, the Infantry battalion of the Expeditionary Force raised in the Wellington district was called "The Wellington Regiment," and the four companies were called, respectively, after their Territorial battalions: the 7th Wellington West Coast Company, usually shortened to the "West Coast" Company, the 11th Taranaki Company ("Taranaki" Company), the 9th Hawkes Bay Company ("Hawkes Bay" Company), and the 17th Ruahine Company ("Ruahine" Company). To identify them with their Territorial units each company wore the distinctive badge and numeral of its own parent battalion. This organisation, which was maintained throughout the War, promoted keen company rivalry, and this rivalry was a potent factor in establishing and maintaining the efficiency of the Regiment. Though, at first sight, a somewhat cumbersome organisation, the preservation of the identity of the Territorial battalions in the units of the Expeditionary Force was a far-sighted policy, and the Territorial units of our New Zealand Citizen Army owe it to General Godley's foresight that they can carry so proudly on their Regimental colours to-day the battle honours won by their Expeditionary Force unit overseas.

As the first requirement of the new Battalion was a full establishment of officers, Headquarters of Territorial battalions were asked to furnish the names of all officers on the strength who were willing to enlist, and a splendid response was immediately forthcoming. The first selection of officers resulted as follows:—
  • Lieut.-Colonel: W. G. Malone.
  • Majors: H. E. Hart, J. W. Brunt, W. H. Cunningham, E. H. Saunders, R. Young.
  • Captains: J. A. Cameron, C. F. D. Cook, E. P. Cox, A. Greene (Chaplain), G. Home, M. McDonnell, J. M. Rose, W. J. Shepherd, J. L. Short, G. N. Waugh (Veterinary).
  • Lieutenants: D. Bryan, H. R. Cowan, A. J. M. Cross, T. A. Davidson, W. E. S. Furby, E. S. Harston, L. W. A. Hugo, L. H. Jardine, R. Lee, A. B. McColl, H. E. McKinnon, L. S. page 3McLernon, C. B. S. Menteath, E. Morgan, B. H. Morison, Wm. F. Narbey, F. K. Turnbull, M. Urquhart, E. J. H. Webb, G. C. Wells, E. R. Wilson.

It was decided to concentrate the forces of all arms from the Wellington district at Palmerston North and the Manawatu Racing Club placed the Awapuni racecourse, with its splendid appointments at the disposal of the military authorities for the purpose of a concentration camp. As the only military equipment in New Zealand at the outbreak of war was that on issue to the Territorial Force, this had to be used to equip the Expeditionary Force. The enlisted men were sent into camp from their districts as fully equipped as the resources of the Regiment permitted. Any shortages were left to be made up in Awapuni from the Ordnance Depot, which was quickly established there.

So far as personnel was concerned, the Regiment was completely mobilized before the end of August. Strenuous training commenced at once. Every man in camp was in deadly earnest and discipline was easy to maintain. The reason was simple. The men were told that, in view of the large number offering, those who committed breaches of discipline would be excluded from the final selection. Training and equipping proceeded steadily. About the middle of September, word was received that the transports were nearly ready at their respective ports, and it was made known that the troops at Awapuni would entrain for Wellington within a few days.

The training, like all training in camps throughout the War, consisted largely of physical exercises and route marching to get the men fit and hard, with a little musketry and steady drill, to get cohesion in the unit. There are two training days which deserve special mention, not, perhaps, for the training performed, but for happy recollections. The first was a route march to Feilding, where the troops were the guests of the people of Feilding, and were entertained on arrival at the racecourse. The Feilding ladies had gone to great trouble to provide delicacies for the troops, many of whom were recruited from the Feilding district. The troops page 4bivouaced for the night at the racecourse, and marched early the next morning on the return journey to Palmerston North. Here a public welcome was accorded them in the Square.

On return to camp, it was found that companies were not all to embark in the same ship, and that the Battalion would be distributed in three different transports. Wellington-West Coast Company, to its great satisfaction, was detailed for the "Maunganui," the flagship of the transport fleet: two platoons of Hawkes Bay Company, under Major Young, were detailed for the "Limerick," and the rest of the battalion were to embark on the "Arawa." The move from Awapuni camp to the transports at the Wellington wharves was quietly and quickly effected on the 22nd September, and every one soon settled down to his quarters on board ship. The transports were in every case very comfortably equipped; but, as all carried a quota of horses, we were soon to realize that a horse is not a very pleasant shipmate. For one thing, his quarters are hard to keep clean and the odour of stables soon reached to every corner of the ship, and seemed to taint the very food.

Embarkation, including the shipping of horses and stores, was completed within 48 hours of reaching Wellington. A final farewell parade of all troops was held in Newtown Park on September 23, when His Excellency the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Mayor of Wellington bade them farewell and God speed. Immediately the men returned from the parade the troopships drew out into the stream. The "Maunganui" was the only ship to remain at the wharf and, when she failed to move out during the night, rumour soon spread that there was some hitch in the sailing of the convoy. The "Maunganui" remained at the wharf and the other ships in the stream until the 28th September. On the day the sailing of the convoy was cancelled, and the troopships in the stream returned to the wharf, accompanied by four other transports carrying the South Island portion of the Force, which had arrived overnight in Wellington harbour. Horses were disembarked, and all mounted units despatched page 5to camps ashore. The Infantry remained aboard the ships and it was announced that the sailing of the Force would be delayed for several weeks awaiting the arrival of a naval escort of sufficient strength. It seemed that the Admiralty declined to take the responsibility for the convoy with the warships then available. The whereabouts of several powerful German cruisers, thought to be in the Pacific, were unknown. Imagine how all chafed at the delay!

In order to waste no time, rigorous training was the order of the day. The Regiment marched, manoeuvred and fought in miniature battles over the rugged hills on the out-skirts of Wellington, a not unfitting preparation for the fighting, soon to be our lot on the steep slopes of Gallipoli.

On the 15th October, the troops once more embarked, and all ships moved into the stream. On this occasion, there was little fuss. The Infantry were thoroughly used to their quarters and ship routine, from having lived on board ship for three weeks or more, and the other troops quickly settled down.

H.M.S. "Minotaur" and the Japanese battleship "Ibuki" had arrived in Wellington harbour on the 14th October, and were to act as escort for the convoy. Their arrival occasioned a good deal of interest, as it was generally realised among the troops and the citizens of Wellington that the arrival of these ships indicated the early departure of the Expeditionary Force.